ASA Conference 2004, Durham - Locating the field

Hosts and guests

Recasting the gaze of hosts and guests on European wetland landscapes

Andrew Russell and Gillian Wallace, University of Durham

It is common thinking that the relationships between hosts and guests often leads to the recasting of their respective gazes. Recent work has challenged the concept of the tourist gaze as a totalising entity and metaphor, favouring the term ‘glance’ by way of introducing the issue of interaction at both the ‘global’ and ‘local’ level. This research investigates these themes using a multi-site ethnography of European wetlands in Finland, Greece, Lithuania and Romania. Each of these wetlands is renowned for its biodiversity, and their ecological qualities form a foundation for tourism development in each area. However, cultural diversity in the different landscapes also offers something for the non-ecological tourist. As mobility has increased, so too have local discourses regarding the natural and cultural landscape changed. Hosts now travel abroad, sometimes as tourists themselves, and ‘abroad’ is presented to them via print and non-print media on a daily basis. They also receive national and international guests. Variations in landscapes, tourist attractions (both natural and cultural) and local discourses will be presented. The main analysis centres on what can be said generically about the changing nature of hosts and guests in each site as well as reasons for cross-cultural variations in the metaphor of changing local gazes.

Swiss alpine landscapes and senses of place: differences between views from “inside” and “outside” and underlying factors

Susanne Kianicka, Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape

This study is part of a project which is currently conducted to determine how different interest groups perceive and appraise the Swiss alpine landscape and its changes. In particular the connections between the meanings of “places” in the Swiss alpine landscape and the senses of place of people are investigated. The focal point is the exploration of the differences between the views from “inside” and “outside” which in this particular case imply the views of the residents of the alpine region on one hand and the views of the visitors or tourists on the other hand.

The study is based on a constructivist and discourse approach towards landscape. Thereby, alpine landscape and the meanings of its elements are understood as being socially produced and contested representations. Thus the various landscape meanings are constructs of different discourse communities and projected onto the places according to the specific imagery, expectations, preferences, beliefs and powers of the relevant interest group. In addition to addressing these principal points the study contributes to a deeper understanding of society – landscape relationships.

According to the principal question a qualitative empirical approach was chosen. The aim was an inductive evaluation of the question: Which landscape elements or changes have a particular meaning or significance for certain people and their sense of place? To increase the validity of the findings the object of the discourse analysis is text material gained from interviews (semi- and unstructured) as well as newspapers and (tourism-) promotion material.

The fieldwork is, for the purpose of comparison and thus for a higher validity of results, conducted in two small villages, Alvaneu and Savognin, in the region of Mid-Grisons of the Swiss Alps. These two originally peasant villages are situated in two neighboring valleys and are characterized by entirely different degrees of touristic development.

First results show clearly that different places carry different meanings from the outer view and the inner view. There are also differences between the various subgroups. The reason for these differences is the application of different judgment criteria by the informants. These criteria can be roughly divided into one part which concerns the form and another one which concerns the function of a particular place or process.

The results also reveal interesting relationships between the perception of authenticity and cultural heritage in the landscape and sense of place or place identity. Thus future research should deepen the understanding of the social processes which underlie the diverse perceptions of authenticity by applying discursive methods. The way society talks about landscapes allows a comprehensive view into different dimensions of its relationship with certain places.

Key words: landscape perception, discourse analysis, sense of place, leisure activities, constructivist approach.

Between the jigs and the reels: occupying the space between tourism and traditional Irish music in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland

Adam Kaul, University of Durham

Social science studies in/on tourist destinations often simplify the relationships between local peoples (often called hosts) and tourists (often called guests), revealing the need for more qualitative ethnographic research on tourism. One way in which anthropologists and sociologists in particular have begun to problematise this relationship is to create more complex taxonomies of tourist types. I argue on the one hand that even these finer-grain taxonomies are far too simplistic, and on the other hand, that we must look closer at the categories in between the local and the tourist.

Ethnographic analyses of these in-between categories have been initiated by others, but they need to be taken further. In this paper, I will examine the in-between categories that I encountered in my recent fieldwork in a rural Irish village whose main source of income is derived from the summer tourist season. To a large extent, the relatively recent history of tourism to the region by non-local Irish and non-Irish to the village has resulted in the creation of a permanent or semi-permanent population of in-comers, called blow-ins in the local terminology.

The village is famous for its traditional Irish dance music which is performed in the form of semi-formal pub-sessions, and my research looks at the ways in which tourism has changed the meaning and performance of this folk tradition. I will discuss how this recent history of interaction between the local traditional music scene and incoming tourists and blow-ins has shaped the modern social and political life of the village. The blow-ins are heavily involved in local politics, are often economically entrepreneurial, and perhaps most importantly, have become almost the sole inheritors and propagators of the local traditional Irish music in the area. In-comers then have not only changed the shape of the village, figuratively and literally, but have also appropriated the r’aison dêtre of the local tourism industry: its local tradition of Irish dance music. I argue that, to a large extent, this appropriation has been successful despite the superficial cognitive dissonance that this situation might create for the outsider. As a result, this research continues to problematise the dichotomies between tourists and locals, and challenges anthropological notions about tradition and its bearers.